Writer’s Corner: Humor Tips for Essay Writers

By Keith Ecker

Although one of the priorities of essay writing should be to convey a personal truth in a way that reflects your unique point of view and artistic voice, this must be tempered with writing the piece in a way that clicks with the audience. The key here is to find a balance that enables you to convey your point effectively while retaining your artistic integrity.

One of the most reliable ways to ensure you nab the audience’s attention throughout your essay is to infuse the story with humor. Injecting humor into a piece engages the audience and adds a bit of levity to what may otherwise be a heavy subject. Plus, as long as the humor comes from your own personal point of view, you can entertain without pandering.

The following are some tips to help you infuse humor into your essay writing:

1. Find the irony of a situation. Perhaps the head of your human resources’ department harassed you at work. Or perhaps your sports-loving father produced a son that embraced musical theater. Whatever the situation may be, there’s almost always a grain of irony that you can highlight and possibly weave throughout your narrative.

2. Go to those vulnerable places. People love stories of embarrassment or to hear that the protagonist was wrong all along. These vulnerable pieces are highly relatable.  Yes, these are some of the more difficult stories to tell. But your job as the storyteller is to tell the stories your audience doesn’t want to tell themselves.

3. Use interesting imagery. Sometimes the use of off-the-wall imagery can serve as an effective comedic tool. For example, I once described a bad dancer as having the grace of a malfunctioning robot. Just make sure the imagery accurately conveys your point. If the imagery is just absurd without any true relation to what it’s describing, it will detract from your story.

4. Use jokes sparingly. What may be surprising to some is that interweaving jokes into your essays can actually hurt your pieces. The comedy of an essay should arise out of situations. By inserting jokes, you risk stopping the momentum of your piece for a laugh. However, jokes can be effective when used sparingly. Jokes in essay writing don’t necessarily resemble a “Knock knock” kind of gag.  They can be a number of things from a turn of a phrase to a pun.

5. Write with a strong point of view. One of the key elements of good stand-up comedy, which applies to essay writing, is the need to have a strong point of view. Figure out how you feel about what you are writing about, whether it be a person, a situation or a thing. Hone in on that emotion and run with it. If you’re writing a story about a cat as a way to talk about how you hate cats, make sure your hatred of cats is pronounced. Exaggerating an emotion can be a way to add humor to a piece.

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